Thoughtful Leadership

As tough challenges confront management educators, AACSB International takes up the responsibility of being a thought leader on critical issues.
Thoughtful Leadership

It was fitting that the theme for AACSB International’s 2005 International Conference and Annual Meeting was “the next horizon,” since the organization is beginning an expansion into new territory. In the past five years, AACSB has undergone radical changes in its activities, its services to members, and its physical location. Although we remain focused on accreditation, we are now entering a new phase as we commit ourselves to thought leadership as well.

There has never been a more crucial time for organizations such as ours to step forward and propose strategies for improvement in our field. I believe that if AACSB takes a strong position on critical concerns, the association can help lead deans and school administrators through times of potential crisis and shape debate on key issues.

Top Concerns

We all know that management education is facing ongoing challenges posed by media rankings and the doctoral shortage. Additional topics that AACSB wants to address are the value proposition of management education and the ways business schools can develop closer ties to the business community.

These areas of thought leadership were developed by the AACSB International board of directors during a comprehensive strategic planning process, drawing on extensive input from the membership. The board was building on the work of the Committee on Issues in Management Education, which I had the privilege of chairing during the past year.

We will provide thought leadership by conducting research on key management education issues and providing management educators with tools that will help them communicate with stakeholders. We’ve also created several new positions to help us build our thought leadership capabilities.

Neal Mero, our new Associate Vice President for Accreditation and Development, will support accreditation development and lead efforts to secure research funding. We’re recruiting an Assistant Vice President for Knowledge Services to focus on research and mine the growing AACSB business school database. Stephen Watson, former principal of Henley Management College in the U.K., has become our first Scholar in Residence. He will complete projects related to thought leadership and also work with members around the world who are interested in seeking accreditation. In addition, the AACSB World Headquarters will host visiting faculty scholars beginning this fall.

The Core Competency

While thought leadership will be a major emphasis while I am board chair, we will not lose sight of our core competency, which is business school accreditation. Founded in 1916, AACSB International adopted its first accreditation standards in 1919, and it has been the world’s leader in the accreditation of undergraduate and graduate business programs.

With a continuing commitment to business accreditation, AACSB can become even better. During my term, I expect that the association will strengthen its international membership, improve worldwide awareness of accreditation, and make AACSB a global advocate for management education.

Our peer review teams have the major responsibility in our accreditation review process. As we continue to adjust to the five-year review cycle and add to the number of accredited schools, expanding the number of trained reviewers will be an important priority. One of our goals for the upcoming year is to expand the orientation and training we offer potential peer review team members, both through adding more peer review training opportunities at selected AACSB events and by implementing an online version of the training program this summer.

Expanding the Reach of Accreditation

While our members understand how important accreditation is, sometimes prospective students, parents, and other stakeholders do not. Therefore, one of our other goals for the coming year is to heavily promote the value of accreditation. Our approach will be multifaceted: We will publicize AACSB to the media, develop materials to explain its role to stakeholders, and clarify our advocacy role outside the U.S.

To achieve these objectives, we will seek national and international publicity. We’re developing a PowerPoint resource packet about key management education issues that can be shown at advisory board meetings, community meetings, and other venues. We’ll create talking points that deans can use when working with the media. We’re releasing reports that outline AACSB’s positions on media rankings and the value proposition of management education.

What AACSB should do and can do is become a thought leader for business education worldwide.

At the same time, we’re putting more emphasis on our ongoing value of accreditation campaign. This includes the creation of a new visual identity symbolized by an updated accreditation seal that reinforces our long heritage and high standards. The seal features the new tagline: “Earned Excellence. The Best Business Schools in the World.” Schools with accounting accreditation also can use the tagline “The Best Accounting Programs in the World.”

The Value of Accreditation campaign is being supported with both print and electronic materials; accredited schools can download the new seal from As students, parents, and other stakeholders gain a deeper understanding of AACSB accreditation, we expect to reach more members and strengthen our own brand.

Improvements in Service

In addition to promoting accreditation initiatives and assuming more thought leadership, the board and I will be devoting attention to providing better services for member schools. For instance, we want to streamline the planning process for conferences and seminars, develop strategies for corporate relationships, enhance our affinity group activities, and conduct regular needs assessment for members.

In another important move, we plan to enhance the value of the data system maintained by Knowledge Services. In the next year, members will be able to get the data they want on demand, identify and manage comparison groups more effectively online, and manage a wide array of their own data in a secure online environment. We also plan improvements to our accreditation reports, and we are designing the first module devoted to accounting accreditation.

Looking Ahead

As the association prepares to celebrate its 90th anniversary in 2006, we need to assess what strengths brought us this far and what strengths will carry us into the next century. It seems obvious that we must focus on what could and should be done, rather than choosing priorities simply based on what resources we have available.

What AACSB should do and can do is become a thought leader for business education worldwide. What we should do and can do is improve our accreditation processes and promote the value of accreditation across the globe. Therefore, we will allocate resources accordingly as we focus on these critical tasks going into the next year.